“We didn’t get mad, we got smart,” HBO CEO Michael Fuchs said about hitting The Wall, looking back at HBO stalling in 1984 from the vantage of the early 1990s. Actually, a lot of the rank and file didn’t get mad or smart; we’d seen 125 of our friends and colleagues get shown the door when the company had suddenly flatlined after eight years of phenomenal growth, and what we got was scared.
But it’s to the credit of HBO’s execs that whatever anxieties they may have had, they showed no panic or even nervousness in public. Instead, they poured any concerns into energetically and immediately addressing the question of, “What do we do now?” The world we knew had changed and there was no going back to the Gold Rush days of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The company required a humongous